|Monday’s Red Sox-White Sox matchups: Jon Lester vs. Dylan Axelrod||05.20.13 at 11:25 am ET|
The undefeated Jon Lester will vie for his seventh win of the season Monday night as the Red Sox take on the White Sox for the first time in 2013. Dylan Axelrod will get the start for Chicago in the first game of the three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
The success of Lester in 2013 is a huge reason why the Red Sox are in the mix for the division lead through 44 games. The ace of the Boston staff has rebounded exceptionally from his disappointing 2012 season and comes into Monday’s game with a 6-0 record and 2.72 ERA. Through nine starts, Lester is putting up numbers that are reminiscent of his great 2010 season, in which he made the All-Star team and finished fourth in Cy Young voting.
Lester faltered a bit at the end of April, allowing more than three runs in a start for the first time in 2013 back on April 30 against Toronto, giving up six runs on six hits to the Jays. But Lester got back on track in a big way, throwing a complete-game, one-hit shutout the next time he took on Toronto. Lester notched his sixth win of the year his last time out, allowing two runs on eight hits to the Rays while striking out five batters in seven innings. With those five strikeouts, Lester now has 1,110 on his career, moving him past Josh Beckett for fifth place on the team’s all-time strikeout list.
“That’s pretty cool. It’s not something that you play for,” Lester said of the feat. “I play to win games and hopefully win the World Series. If it just so happens along the way your name moves along those lists, then great. … It’s an honor to be with those names that I’m sure are still ahead of me, and hopefully I can keep pitching, and hopefully we can bring more World Series here.”
The White Sox have given Lester some trouble in the past, scoring 32 runs in 55 1/3 innings off of the Sox lefty, good for a 5.20 ERA in nine starts. Lester lasted only four innings in his last outing against the White Sox back in July 2012, giving up six runs on seven hits. The start came in a string of three outings in which Lester couldn’t get past the fifth inning. However, the first time he saw Chicago in 2012, Lester got the better of the White Sox lineup, throwing seven innings of shutout ball. But if there’s one batter Lester will have to be careful with in this Chicago lineup, it’s Paul Konerko. The power-hitting first baseman has 10 hits in 23 career at-bats against Lester, with six of those going for extra bases.
Lester will be matched up against Axelrod, who is 1-3 with a 4.27 ERA. The righty finally earned his first win of 2013 in his last outing, his eighth start of the year, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing three runs on a season-high nine hits to the Twins.
The 27-year-old Axelrod is in the midst of his first full season in the majors, spending his first month of last season with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. The Red Sox have not seen much of Axelrod in his three years with the White Sox. He appeared in two games against the Sox in 2012 (one start and one relief appearance), allowing 10 hits and two runs in nine innings while striking out 10.
Axelrod doesn’t have overpowering stuff, with his fastball velocity sitting around 87-89 mph. He also uses a slider, curveball and changeup. He owns a 1.317 WHIP and an even 2.00 strikeout to walk rate on the year.
|Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. David Price||05.15.13 at 10:24 am ET|
It’ll be a battle of ace left-handers on Wednesday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Jon Lester taking the hill for the Red Sox against reigning Cy Young winner David Price.
The undefeated Lester threw a complete-game gem last time out, blanking the Blue Jays and allowing only one hit on the day. The lefty struck out five without walking a batter, bringing his strikeout-to-walk ratio to an even 3-1. He threw 118 pitches in the nine-inning performance, his highest total of the year so far. Lester made only one mistake on the day, allowing a double to Maicer Izturis, the only blemish in what would have otherwise been a perfect game.
The one-hitter clearly was Lester’s most dominant start of the season, but he’s been impressive all year long. Lester heads into his ninth start with a 5-0 record, 2.73 ERA and 0.987 WHIP. He’s finished at least six innings in six of his eight starts, while striking out five or more in every outing.
Lester has taken on the Rays 23 times in his career, facing only the Blue Jays more times. Over those 23 games, he’s 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA while striking out 143 Rays over 139 innings. Tampa Bay gave the Sox lefty some trouble last year, limiting him to only 10 innings over two outings, and scoring 10 runs on 10 hits and five home runs.
Price, who finished 2012 with 20 wins, a league-low 2.56 ERA and an American League Cy Young trophy, has struggled somewhat in his eight starts thus far in 2013, going 1-3 with a 4.78 ERA. Price has allowed five or more runs three times on the year, including his penultimate start in which he gave up nine runs (though only four were earned) on 10 hits and three walks to the Rockies. Apparently, Price has been dealing with some severe allergy issues that have impaired his vision on the mound, and he is being treated with eye drops to curb the symptoms. “All the trainers, they knew that I couldn’t see and that my vision was extremely blurry,” Price said Tuesday about his earlier starts.
Price has had success against the Red Sox in the past, owning an 8-4 record and ERA just south of three in 16 career games. Lester and Price have already met once this year, engaging in a pitchers’ duel at Fenway back on April 13. Both starters allowed only one earned run but neither would get the win; the contest remained knotted at 1-1 until Shane Victorino singled in Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the 10th inning.
|Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Ramon Ortiz||05.10.13 at 10:32 am ET|
Left-hander Jon Lester will take the mound for the Red Sox, looking for his fifth win of the season, in the series opener vs. Toronto at Fenway Park on Friday night. Lester will take on veteran righty Ramon Ortiz, who is making his first start of the season for the pitching-deprived Blue Jays.
Lester comes into the series with a 4-0 record after not factoring into the decision his last time out against Texas. In that start, the lefty gave up three runs on five hits and three walks while fanning seven in six innings. Lester left the game in a 3-3 tie, but the Sox would go on to drop the tilt 4-3 on a walk-off single in the ninth from Adrian Beltre.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Sox ace took on Toronto, and the 29-year-old starter looks to have a better outing against the Jays this time around. Lester did not look sharp in his last start against Toronto, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks in six innings, giving up a home run to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and doubles to right fielder Jose Bautista and catcher J.P. Arencibia.
Although his last time out against the Jays wasn’t a winning effort, Lester has had relative success against Toronto in his career. He’s 12-7 lifetime with a 3.82 ERA and 1.128 WHIP. His numbers against the divisional rival would look even better if it weren’t for 2012. Lester went 1-3 against Toronto last year, allowing 21 runs and seven home runs in 26 innings pitched with a 7.22 ERA.
The Blue Jays, who were handicapped by pitching injuries in 2012, are facing the same issues again in 2013. They’ve already lost Josh Johnson to the DL with right triceps inflammation, and starter J.A. Happ joins him after being hit in the head with a line drive on Tuesday night and twisting his knee while collapsing to the ground. R.A. Dickey also is dealing with some soreness in his back and neck, but he has been pitching through it. The injuries have forced the Blue Jays to get creative with their rotation, and Ramon Ortiz is the newest addition to it.
Ortiz is a seasoned veteran with 12 years of major league experience under his belt. The 40-year-old (who at 40 years and 47 days will be the oldest Blue Jays starter to take the mound since Dave Steib in 1998, who was 41 at the time) was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo for the second time this season. Ortiz was pitching well with the Bisons, going 2-0 in 3 starts with a 2.18 ERA. His only other appearance for the Blue Jays this year was a mop-up relief appearance in a blowout against the White Sox, in which he went 3 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits and a walk.
The well-traveled journeyman, who has played with eight teams over the course of his career, has faced the Red Sox 12 times, but it’s been a while since he’s been to Fenway Park. The last time the Sox got a look at Ortiz was back in 2004, when he pitched a total of 9 1/3 innings in relief for the Angels. Prior to that, Ortiz made two starts a year against the Red Sox from 2000-2003, and will bring a 3-3 record and 4.67 ERA against the Sox into Friday night. One Red Sox hitter that will be happy to see Ortiz is David Ortiz (no relation). The Sox designated hitter has five hits in 15 at-bats against the pitcher who shares his last name, and four of those five hits left the park.
This will be the first start since July 10, 2011, for Ramon Ortiz, who spent the entirety of 2012 pitching for the Yankees’ Triple-A team. The righty has bounced around quite a bit since being traded to the Reds in 2004, spending time with seven major league teams and seven minor league clubs since 2005.
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Rangers matchups: Jon Lester vs. Yu Darvish||05.05.13 at 8:47 am ET|
Jon Lester will look to move past his recent shaky starts on Sunday in Texas, facing Yu Darvish and the Rangers at 3:05 p.m.
After opening the year impressively, Lester’s performance fell off somewhat in his last two appearances. He walked six over 5 2/3 innings against the A’s on April 24, although he limited the damage to three runs and still picked up the win as the Sox offense helped him out.
Then, in his last start, Lester had his worst outing of the year, giving up six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks over six innings as the Sox lost to the Blue Jays, 9-7, on April 30.
Lester still has a 1.14 WHIP and a 3.11 ERA through his first six starts of the year. He’s struck out 33 and walked 12 in 37 2/3 innings.
The Rangers haven’t been the most pleasant opponent for Lester to face over his career. He’s made 10 starts against them since 2006 and has a 4.57 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His worst struggles came last year, as he only logged 8 2/3 innings in total over two starts and gave up 11 runs on 14 hits and six walks.
Darvish’s only career outing against the Sox ended in a loss, as he allowed six runs in 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 6, 2012. The 26-year-old from Japan is off to an excellent start in his second season with the Rangers, though, with a 2.33 ERA and an 0.93 WHIP through six April starts.
In five of his six starts, Darvish has struck out at least eight batters. Last time out, he fanned nine and walked three, allowing four runs as the Rangers beat the White Sox, 10-6.
Of the current Sox, Darvish has taken a beating from Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury has two doubles in his four appearances against Darvish, and Pedroia has three in the same number of PAs.
Nelson Cruz has dominated Lester in 18 PAs against him, hitting .529/.556/.941 with a home run, a triple and two doubles. Ian Kinsler has homered twice off of Lester in his 26 appearances.
|The next pitch, not umpires, is what concerns Jon Lester these days||04.30.13 at 11:50 am ET|
TORONTO — Jon Lester knew before he threw a pitch last Wednesday it was just one of those days.
“It’s just like anybody, you wake up some days you’re in a great mood and no matter what happens you’re like, ‘Whatever.’ There are other days somebody can come up to you and say, ‘Hey,’ and it pisses you off. I think the other day was one of those days,” he said. “I just was in a bad mood for some reason to start the day and it carried over to the game. People need to realize, we’re humans. We have emotions throughout the day just like everybody else. That was one of those days the littlest thing set me off and it just carried me over to the game. But being able to then forget about that and move on to the next pitch, that’s what has helped me over the last couple of years.”
What most saw, however, wasn’t somebody having “one of those days,” but rather a pitcher who was reverting back to the bad habits of complaining about what he perceived as missed balls and strikes calls.
During his latest win, Lester could be seen visibly upset by judgements made first by home plate umpire Jerry Layne and then Mike Estabrook (who jumped behind the plate starting in the fourth inning after Layne’s hand injury).
This was part of the narrative when it came to analyzing Lester a year ago — the distraction of umpires’ calls. This season the conversation had gone away, until that game against the A’s.
“I think last year everything is magnified because it’s such a bad year,” he said. “Any time I had a discrepancy with an umpire it seemed like I gave up a hit, or gave up an RBI, or gave up a home run. I think people thought, ‘Well, he’s not focused on the next pitch. He’s worried about the umpire.’ That’s not the case.
“I haven’t been perfect with it, but I’ve always been like, ‘OK, I feel that was a good pitch, I think you missed it, so what am I going to do with this pitch,’ and move on. You need to focus on the next pitch or this is going to happen again. I think I’ve done a good job with that throughout my career. There have been times that it has been a bad thing for me to focus on. It would carry over for an inning or two, and wear on me as opposed to looking at it as, ‘OK, so be it, let’s move on to the next pitch.’
“I’m an emotional guy. I’ve always been an emotional guy. I wear my feelings on my sleeve and it’s not going to change. It’s just a matter of what I need to do after the fact, and that’s where I think I’ve improved over the years and gotten better at that.”
Jon Lester will look to close out his terrific month of April by joining Clay Buchholz as a member of the five-win club. Lester will face off against Brandon Morrow on Tuesday night as the Red Sox and Blue Jays open up a three-game series in Toronto.
Lester and Buchholz are a combined 9-0 and both have ERAs under 3.00, which is one of the primary reasons for the team’s 18-7 record, the best in baseball. Lester is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 28 in 31 2/3 innings. He allowed his first home run of the year in his most recent start, and has allowed 25 hits and 10 walks, equating to a 1.11 WHIP.
In his most recent outing, Lester had his first tough start, but he still was able to pick up the victory. On Wednesday, the left-hander went 5 2/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, walked a season-high six batters and struck out five in the Sox’ 6-5 win over the A’s. This is the first season in his career in which Lester has four victories in April.
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t have good stuff,” Lester said after his last start. “I thought I had good stuff. Early on, it was a little bit of a battle, a lot of foul balls. It was big to get a win right there. The offense picked me up, coming back after that three-run inning to score three and tie it up. They kept doing a good job later after that to score some more runs.”
At the start of the season, many baseball analysts and experts had the Sox and Jays in opposition positions from which they currently sit. While the Sox lead the AL East at 18-7, the Jays are in the cellar, at a disappointing 9-17. Morrow will look to end a couple of streaks on Tuesday night, as Toronto has lost four straight and the 0-2 righty will look for his victory of the season.
In five starts, Morrow has hurled 27 1/3 innings, allowed 33 hits, four home runs and nine walks, with 19 strikeouts. His ERA is a robust 5.27. In his Wednesday start against Baltimore, he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings and got a no-decision.
Lester has had considerable success against the Jays in his career, going 12-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 144 2/3 innings. Adam Lind has struggled in particular vs. the two-time All-Star, going 3-for-27 with 10 strikeouts in his career. On the other hand, Morrow has been lit up by the Sox, posting a 1-3 record with an 8.28 ERA in his career against the division rival. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are a combined 24-for-52 (.462) with seven home runs and 18 RBIs against Morrow.
|For Jon Lester, struggle yields promise — and a win||04.25.13 at 12:03 am ET|
It was a different game for Jon Lester than any other he’d pitched this year. His frustration — with himself, with the strike zone — became visible at times. The execution and ability to attack the strike zone were inconsistent.
It was precisely the sort of game that often got away from the 2012 edition of the left-hander. On Wednesday, however, Lester overcame some rough patches and gave his team a chance to win. In perhaps his biggest test during what has otherwise been a phenomenal April, he achieved a sort of “bend not break” outcome, showing the ability to win a game where he doesn’t have his best stuff in the Red Sox’ 6-5 victory over the Athletics.
Lester had already shown the ability to dominate this year through his first four starts. But on Wednesday, another facet of his game was on display — the ability to adapt to something other than his A-game. That trait, in some ways, may be an even more important indicator of his ability to reclaim the form that made him a two-time All-Star and one of the top left-handed pitchers in the game.
“Those are the things that I think give [Lester] an opportunity to have a big year,” manager John Farrell said of the ability to stop his struggles from snowballing. “Jon has solidified his delivery to where he’s able to make adjustments inside the game, and that was the case today.”
The lefty battled through 5 2/3 innings, walking a season-high six hitters and allowing a season-high three runs. He gave up his first home run of the year (a three-run shot to Chris Young), tied a season-high with 115 pitches thrown and also allowed more than five hits for the first time in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »
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